I’ve seen many beautiful quotes go up today to celebrate International Women’s Day and as I was taking my mom out for her weekly day with her lady friends, I had that a-ha moment that my way to mark this day would be to celebrate her many achievements.
This woman, that I call “Mom” has transformed my life and the way I look at it, embrace it and surrender to it.
I started giggling in the car today as I thought about how I hated smelling like samosas all through high school weekends…yeah funny now, but not at the time but it was not so much. And little did I know that it would be the start of the biggest dream my mom made happen! (btw, if you don’t know what samosas are, you better run out and try them for yourself! Of course, they won’t be as good as hers! ;))
She came to America in her early 20’s in 1970 with my sister and me, who were 4 and 2 at the time. She friended just about everyone in our apartment complex within a few months and although she spoke a little bit of English (and 8 other Indian languages/dialects!), it didn’t deter her to keep learning from the women she became friends with that first year we arrived. She learned how to drive within her first year in the U.S.
I remember it well – Miss Peggy, our next door neighbor who drove a school bus, would take my mom out in the mornings after she got done with her job and off they would go with my mom always smiling and ready to learn.
That smile never goes away. Never. I’ve been told the same of me and so I guess the apples doesn’t fall from the tree, huh?
Over the years, my mom just made it happen. Truly. She refused to give up on anything she did. And she did it well.
She decided that she wanted to stay at home with us and so she started a daycare center when we moved to the countryside in Maryland. She was so loved by her kids and their parents. She treated them like her own and it showed. When moms or dads were running late, she’d sit the little ones down with us for dinner and they all started learning to eat Indian food because well, that was what my mom was making and so that is what she made sure you would love!
That love of food that she had and the love she had for giving others the experience of her cooking never ever went away and to this day, my mom (like myself, yeah the apple), gets more joy out of preparing food and watching others enjoy than anything else I have ever seen!
My mother didn’t even know how to cook when she married my father. She learned how to make Indian chai after they were married!
She grew up one of 7 kids in a family that shared 2 rooms – a tiny kitchen and a “living area” – barely 150 square feet and so when it came to dinner, their mom didn’t want them anywhere nearby so she played, climbed trees and stayed away from the kitchen like she was told.
She wanted to go to college but was told that there wasn’t enough money to send the girls to college so she decided she’d go anyway. She tutored and earned money to pay here way through school and graduated with a language and teaching degree.
Nothing stopped her. Ever.
My dad reminisces about the first experiences of my mom making food – let’s just say they weren’t very pretty! They ate out a lot. A lot. As in all the time!
But because she is who she is, she was determined to learn what she didn’t know and over time, created magic in the kitchen.
By the time I was in high school, my mom was known for her cooking – her yummy daal curries, her chicken curries (and she never has eaten a day of meat in her entire life!), her samosas…HER SAMOSAS!! Remember me saying how I smelled like them all through high school? Well, this is where the real magic began and dreams started manifesting in big ways!
My mom was intent on starting a restaurant — she wanted to introduce the first Indian Vegetarian restaurant to Atlanta. None of that boring old salad stuff she said as she started researching what vegetarian food was in the late 1980’s….it was b-o-r-i-n-g as far as she was concerned! She planned to introduce her famous samosas (and yes they were in big demand! I used to drive trays and trays of them to local stores all weekend long all through high school and my car and me would wreak of fried samosas for days and then it was time to start all over again!), pani puri, masala dosas and all the other delectable fun, street food she grew up eating in India!
My dad said that if she could save $20,000, he would entertain it and help her with the dream. Two years to the date later, guess what?!! YUP! She had it and said she was ready, let’s do this!
Indian Delights was born about 2 years later! They took big risk in starting the restaurant from scratch. My mom created every last item on the menu (and oh, I actually photographed all of those items back in the day), had a grill created that was large enough for her specialty items and they were in business and never looked back!
My mom was known by so many as the sweet little Indian woman (she is all of 5 foot nothing!) who was a fireball (again, the apple doesn’t fall far) in every way! She remembered everyone’s orders when they walked in the door, treated them with love — as if they were guests in her own home. SHE was her business and everyone was drawn to it like a magnet!
There are days that I look back at how hard she worked, and always with a smile and passion for everything and everyone around her and I feel truly blessed to have had her as my mentor all of my life.
To this day, after two strokes and so much physical angst, my mom still smiles all the time, touches us lovingly and with understanding. I know what she is saying in those moments– “Rupa, do what you love… go get it…it’s yours for the taking…make it happen!”
So on this International Women’s Day, I don’t have to look any further than at this woman whose kindness, love of her family, joy for food and reverence for life have taught me so much about love, life and family.
The apple hasn’t fallen far and I am thankful for that every single day.